Last Saturday night we performed in the home of very good friends of ours in North Saanich BC. It was a great evening. Bob and Louise had enticed 38 friends to come out and share the evening of songs, quilts and stories.
House concerts are one of my favourite ways to perform. It’s not a new idea, but it is unknown to some people. Classical chamber music, for example, was originally performed in salons of well-to-do patrons of the arts. House concerts are the modern version. They are intimate, relaxed, and there is very little in the way between the performer and the audience. That’s why I love them: they break down that barrier.
It starts with having a room that is large enough to seat 20-50 people (with chairs, please). Nice acoustics are a bonus, but not essential. Most house concerts are done without additional sound equipment, which makes the set up very easy.
Next, have a bunch of friends who like to get together. They don’t have to be all interested in music, but it helps. They could be a quilting group. Sometimes house concerts are advertised publicly, but most often, they exist thanks to personal networks of both the hosts and the artist. The Internet and social networking sites are very handy to publicise the show.
House concert hosts are expected to do the promotion for the event, supply yummy nibblies (I have some great recipes, if you need help!), chairs, information and sometimes drinks (but most often, people bring their own). Sometimes they feed and house the performers as well, especially if they are from out of town. They keep track of reservations so they know when they have at least 20 people and when they can’t fit anyone else in the room. Sometimes, they add a second show, if there is enough interest. Admission is usually $10-20 each. The host will be able to cover costs from that amount – the rest goes to the performer(s).
The artist is expected to do two sets of music, with an intermission in between, and generally be charming and approachable. S/he can bring CDs to sell, or other product. Personally, I love being able to do two sets of music, because at quilting guilds I can only do a one-hour set. I have WAAY too many songs that I don’t have time to do in just an hour!
The satisfaction factor at house concerts is very high. The audience is more relaxed than at any other venue I can think of, and therefore are more appreciative of the music in this intimate setting. The musicians generally sell more CDs.
I must say that not all musicians shine in this circumstance. I think of some performers who don’t relate to their audiences very well, and who LOVE to have that barrier (serious sound equipment, high stage, orchestra pit) between them and their fans. If their stage presence is rude or insulting, they should probably not be invited to perform at a house concert.
And the benefit for the hosts? The chance to hang out with their favourite performers in their own home, and to make major points with their friends for having hosted a unique and entertaining party.
I think Folk music in Canada is surviving just now thanks partly to house concerts. As normal venues dry up in favour of bands, sports TV or nothing at all, house concerts can keep a career afloat. It’s a great way to build a fan base, and to keep yourself in shape.
On Saturday night, we were able to introduce a whole new audience to quilting. Not all the songs were about quilts, but I did bring along quite a few quilts for show and tell, and lots of people were looking at them very closely. I’m sure Bob and Louise had some talking to do to sell people on the idea of coming to see the “Singing Quilter”!! But once they were there, I think they were very glad to be there.
John is planning our next tour to Australia, and we have one house concert booked already. I hope some others want to give this a try. It’s so much fun!